Steve Bannon: January 6 panel approves criminal contempt report
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the entire House would vote on the report for criminal contempt on Thursday and that after it passed in the House it would then be referred to the Department of Justice.
On Tuesday evening, committee members lambasted Bannon for refusing to cooperate with the commission’s investigation and said he was “isolated” because other witnesses were working with the commission.
At Tuesday’s committee meeting where lawmakers officially said Bannon should face charges of criminal contempt, Thompson and Vice President Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming once again rejected the claim. of Bannon’s executive privilege. Cheney, in his opening remarks, went further, telling members that Bannon and Trump’s arguments over executive privilege suggest the former president was “personally involved” in the planning and execution of January 6.
Anyone found guilty of contempt of Congress would be guilty of a felony that could carry a fine and a jail term of one to twelve months. But this process is rarely invoked and rarely leads to jail time – although the Chamber’s prosecution of criminal charges may be more about making Bannon an example and sending a message to other potential witnesses.
“The American people deserve Mr. Bannon’s first-hand testimony”
Thompson and Cheney said at the meeting that the panel believes Bannon has extensive knowledge of the planning around the attack and reiterated that they expect the Department of Justice to take legal action once the Chamber will have officially voted on a criminal referral.
“Based on the committee’s investigation, it appears that Mr. Bannon had substantial prior knowledge of the Jan. 6 plans and likely played a significant role in formulating those plans,” Thompson said in his remarks by opening. “The American people are entitled to Mr. Bannon’s first-hand testimony on all of these relevant facts, but Mr. Bannon refuses to provide it.”
Cheney also lambasted Bannon for refusing to cooperate and reiterated the committee’s view that his claim for executive privilege is not only invalid, but suggests that Trump was “personally involved” in the planning and execution of the attack of January 6.
“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s arguments of privilege seem to reveal one thing, however: they suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6. And we’ll get to the bottom of that.” , said the Wyoming Republican. noted.
The DC prosecutor’s office released a statement in Thursday’s vote, saying the Justice Department “will assess the matter on the basis of the facts and the law.”
“If the House of Representatives certifies a citation for criminal contempt, the Department of Justice, as with all criminal referrals, will assess the case on the basis of the facts and the law, in accordance with the principles of federal prosecution,” he said. said Bill Miller, a spokesperson. for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Ahead of its business meeting on Tuesday evening, the committee released new correspondence detailing that Bannon’s lawyer wrote to the committee asking it to delay Tuesday’s meeting in light of Trump’s filing of a complaint against the National Archives.
“In light of this late filing, we respectfully request a one week adjournment,” Bannon’s lawyer Robert J. Costello wrote on Monday.
Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, later rejected the request to delay the committee’s business meeting to move forward with criminal contempt, as he argued that the litigation Costello referred to “is without importance for the request of the select committee of documents and testimony of Mr. Bannon “.
What happens next?
After the House vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to certify the report to the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. By law, this certification then requires the United States attorney to “take the case to the grand jury for its action,” but the Department of Justice will also make its own prosecution decisions.
Serious as a referral for criminal contempt may seem, the House’s choice to use the Department of Justice may be more of a wake-up call than a solution. Holding Bannon for criminal contempt through prosecution could take years, and historically criminal contempt cases have derailed with appeals and acquittals.
“As was explained in the letter from the select committee of October 8, 2021 … whether it is made by the former president – will not prevent the select committee from legally obtaining the information it seeks,” said the letter.
And while the committee was “inclined to accept the unsubstantiated premise” that executive privilege affects communications between Bannon and Trump, the letter notes that Bannon “does not enjoy any form of absolute immunity to testify or produce documents. in response to a subpoena from Congress. “
Costello also wrote to the committee the day before Bannon’s appearance for private testimony, saying the committee accusing his client of defiance was “inappropriate.”
Fight for executive privilege
Costello said Bannon was not ignoring the committee’s request but rather following Trump’s instructions in his efforts to defend executive privilege. Costello also wrote that Bannon would not cooperate with the committee until an agreement was reached between the committee and Trump regarding his privilege claims.
“Until you come to an agreement with President Trump or receive a court ruling on the scope, scope and applications of executive privilege, in order to preserve the claim of executive and other privileges, Mr. Bannon will not produce any documents or testify, “the letter read.
A day later, the committee officially announced its decision to go ahead with criminal contempt of Bannon – an effort that begins with Tuesday’s business meeting and vote.
In a letter obtained by CNN on Monday, White House deputy legal adviser to the president Jonathan Su told Costello that the Biden administration would not support any attempt by Bannon to refuse to cooperate with the committee on grounds of privilege. executive.
Su informed Costello that Biden has determined that all of Bannon’s interactions with anyone in the White House, following his departure from the Trump administration, are fair game for the committee’s investigation.
“As you know, Mr. Bannon’s tenure as a White House employee ended in 2017,” Su writes. “To the extent that privileges might apply to Mr. Bannon his conversations with the former president or White House staff after his term ends, President Biden has already determined that an assertion of executive privilege does not It is not in the public interest and is therefore not justified with regard to certain subjects falling within the competence of the select committee.
This story and title was updated with additional developments on Tuesday.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.